Friday, 20 February 2009

A new Oxford project: BRII

Building the Research Information Infrastructure (BRII) is an innovative JISC funded project led by Sally Rumsey and Anne Bowtel that will make use of semantic web technologies to harvest data about research activity from existing sources in Oxford to re-use them in novel ways as well as to make them available to others. 

The data about research activity is also known as research management data (not research data!). Cecilia Loureiro-Koechlin, BRII Project Analyst, explains very effectively what these data are in her recent blog post. The BRII team will use existing data sources like the Oxford Research Archive or the Medical Science Division website, organize the data using RDF ontologies/taxonomies and develop APIs and web services that can enable the re-use of the data for other purposes.
Linking information like this about researchers' fields of expertise, projects, publications, roles, groups, collaborators, etc  has the the potential to impact how scholars identify their peers in particular areas and could empower them to establish new multi-disciplinary relationships which in some cases may help attract funding.

I see this project having strong synergies with research data management activities. In a way, research data outputs could be one of the pieces of information that could be linked to their authors, disciplines and publications, improving discoverability as well as providing additional information about the data. Moreover, the interviews I conducted as part of the scoping study revealed researchers' interest to identify who else in the institution handles the same types of data so that they could benefit from their experiences. Therefore, this type of research information infrastructure could help promoting best practice in research data management. One could also foresee, service providers making their existing services explicit in a similar form so that researchers can discover them more easily but this is certainly not within the scope of this project.    

In sum, this is an extremely exciting new initiative and I would highly recommend to keep an eye on the project's blog that will surely produce some stimulating material.


Chris Rusbridge said...

Does this relate to what some call a Current Research Information System (CRIS)?

Luis Martinez Uribe said...

Thanks for the comment Chris.

In essence, BRII aims at gathering, using and making available information about research activity in Oxford and thus it could probably be considered a type of Current Research Information Systems (CRIS).

What I am not sure about is how it fits in with standards such as the Common European Research Information Format (CERIF).

Maybe something for the BRII team to investigate further.

Scholarship, publishing and the dissemination of research. said...

Yes it is that sort of thing but more of a facilitating mechanism for sharing data than at this stage taking on management of the entire system at the University. The model incorporates semantic web technologies. It needs to fit with existing systems and other related developments in this area within Oxford rather than being as single solution. Holding 'non-publication' digital objects in our repository (eg people, projects etc) was the original prompt for undertaking this work, together with related activities taking place in Medical Sciences with their web. Please get in touch if you'd like to know more.

Cecilia said...

I would say BRII has similar aims as a CRIS: storying data on research. However the efforts of BRII focus on gathering that data from their original sources and build with them an infrastructure on top of which you can develop any number of services as the needs arise. So in that sense BRII won't be one "information system" but the data and the foundations to build information systems.